Our Community Tour Gladstone: Webster Marble and his long-lasting impact on the outdoors

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GLADSTONE, Mich (WJMN) – Webster Marble is known to be one of the greatest inventors and entrepreneurs who called Gladstone home. The outdoor products he invented have been used by millions of people all across the globe and are still used by people to this day even a century after they were sketched in Webster’s invention notebook.

“Marble Arms started in 1892 and we’re going into our 130th year next year, and we’ve made all kinds of outdoor products over the years, most famously we’re known for knives and axes, but we’ve been making gun sights that entire time,” said Craig Lauerman the Vice President and Owner of Marble Arms.

Webster arrived in Gladstone in 1887 with his wife and young son. In 1892, Webster opened the Gladstone Manufacturing Company in a shed behind his house on Wisconsin Avenue where he manufactured the Universal Rifle Sight. One year later in 1893, Webster made his first Pocket Axe but was forced to close his business due to the financial panic that year. While he returned to his surveying and his timber cruising job, Webster did patent the Safety Pocket Axe in 1898 under the company name Marble Safety Axe Company. In 1902 Webster introduced his improved Front Sight, the product that started it all for him ten years prior.

Marble’s products were wildly popular even among celebrities. President Teddy Roosevelt and Charles Lindbergh were just a few people of the many people who favored these high-quality items.

“Over the years Marble has made knives, hatchets which some call that safety axe that has a guard that comes up over the blade,” Lauerman said. “When Mr. Marble was a timber cruiser, he invented a lot of items for the outdoorsman. So he had waterproof match safes, fish gaffes that closed down on the fish to hold it in place, even trout nips, brass compasses, broken shell extractors. A lot of unique items, but then the knives are probably the most popular and we made gun sights since day one.”

Although Webster would go on to hold over 60 patents of outdoorsman products that are still used to this day, his gun sights have been the backbone of the company for more than a century.

“So we buy bar stock and 12-foot bars, and we feed it into the machines,” Lauerman said. “We program our CNC machines to do all the machining and the part comes off, complete, we do some polishing or secondary operations to it, it goes into what we call black oxide or gun bluing tank and turns it black and then we do any kind of assembling or painting, and that goes out the door.”

Today even 90 years after Webster Marble’s death, Marble Arms manufactures and continues to supply gun sights to most American gun makers.

“No matter where I go someone walks up to me and says, ‘Hey, I worked there, my parents work there, my grandparents worked there, I own a knife, I own your sights, I have a collection of this,’ Lauerman said. “Historically, we have all kinds of people who have used our equipment all over the world, and it’s just kind of interesting to have that a part of our history and that we own a part of that history even though we’re focused every day on new stuff, the old stuff is really cool.”

Webster Marble has been coined the inventor of the outdoors due to the everlasting impact his outdoorsman inventions have made on our world today. The Delta County Chamber of Commerce has created a Webster Marble Museum to showcase a collection of products, inventions, and materials that have been collected for the past nearly 40 years.

For more information on that museum click here.

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